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Where was the sheriff on that fateful day?

By Linda Emley

So now we know that Deputy Frank Griffin and his father the jailer, Berry G. Griffin, were both shot and killed at the bank robbery in 1867.
We also know that Deputy Tom Reyburn and a posse of men chased the bandits out of town. After thinking about all this for a while, I wondered to myself, where was the Ray County Sheriff while our bank was being robbed?
I got out my history book and found out that Adam Reyburn was sheriff in 1867 and then I wondered if Deputy Tom Reyburn was related to Sheriff Adam Reyburn. I am betting he was.
After researching Sheriff Adam Reyburn, I found a connection that hit very close to home. Adam was married to Permelia Griffin, who was the daughter of Berry G. Griffin. So Sheriff Reyburn’s father-in-law was the murdered jailer Berry G. Griffin and that also makes the murdered Deputy Frank Griffin, the sheriff’s brother-in-law.
I think a statement from the Richmond Conservator was talking about Sheriff Reyburn’s family when it said, “These loses have thrown a gloom over our entire community, and the loss of their respective families can never be repaired. Heartbreaking beyond description were the plaintive wails of these near and dear relatives – wives, children, mothers and sisters.”
Sheriff Reyburn’s wife, Permelia, lost her father and brother on the day that our bank was robbed. This must’ve been a very sensitive subject in the Reyburn house since her husband was sheriff here at the time of the robbery.
I looked far and wide but never did find anything that told me where the sheriff was that day. After reading 1881 and 1893 biographies for Sheriff Reyburn, I found no mention of his close connection to the 1867 bank robbery. I’m sure it was something that he thought about many times over the course of his life.
Sheriff Reyburn lived to be 93 and died June 29, 1912. I looked up his obituary in the Richmond Conservator and it simply said, “he served several years as sheriff immediately following the war and took an active part in politics at the time.” Adam Kemple Reyburn is buried in the Richmond Cemetery alongside his wife Permelia, who died in 1907. They lived together just a few weeks shy of 40 years after that fateful day in 1867.
There is still at least one more family connection before this tale of Sheriff Adam Reyburn is over. After the Richmond bank robbery, John Francis was appointed deputy by Sheriff Adam Reyburn.
“John Francis was deputy until his term of office expired. In November 1868, he was elected sheriff and collector of Ray County, on the Republican ticket. On Aug. 24, 1869, he married Amelia J. Reyburn, then 17 years old, and eldest daughter of A. K. Reyburn, ex-sheriff of Ray County.”
It sure sounds like John Francis was in the right place at the right time because he got to be sheriff of Ray County and also got to marry his former boss’s 17-year-old daughter. As a mother, I wonder if Amelia’s mother was thinking about her own murdered brother and father who also served as lawmen when Amelia married John.
John Francis’s biography said, “During his official career as sheriff, he discharged the duties of his office with marked ability. He pursued and captured many criminals and fugitives from justice. Among the most noted one was James Devers, whom he captured in Kentucky, the reward being $1,100. James Devers was one of the bank robbers in Richmond, May 23, 1867.”
The 1881 history book said that James Devers was the man on the horse during the bank robbery. While awaiting his court date, he was taken from the jail by vigilantes and hung. Once again I have to ask, where was the sheriff? I don’t think anyone was too worried about the “vigilance committee” that hung James Devers.
I would love to know more about this family, so please let me know if there is anyone who has a family connection or knows any details about how the Reyburns dealt with this tragedy.
I never did find out where Sheriff Adam Reyburn was May 23, 1867, but his 1893 biography ends with the following words: “Our subject is known as a man of undoubted honor and integrity, to whom the public welfare is a matter of vital importance, and who may be ever found upon the side of right and justice.”
Adam Reyburn wore many hats besides sheriff, as his 1881 bio explains. “Adam was born in Kentucky In 1816. When he was about a year old, his parents moved to Missouri and settled in Boone County, where he lived ‘till the age of 19. In 1837, he went to Indiana and engaged in contracting and building. In 1840, he returned to Missouri, and located in Lexington for two years. He then came to Richmond and bought a carding factory, which he operated until 1847, when he sold out and returned to Lexington, to resume the mercantile business, but this time in partnership with his brother, Lewis Reyburn.
“He soon sold out, however, and after spending one year in farming, near Pleasant Hill, returned again to Lexington, and built a carding machine, which he conducted ‘till 1852, in which year he came back to Richmond and repurchased the carding mill he had sold five years before. In 1858, he again sold his carding mill, and moved to his farm three miles west of Richmond.
“In 1861, he returned to Richmond, and was not actively engaged in business during the war. In 1865, he was appointed sheriff of Ray County, and served two years. In the fall of 1866, he was elected to the same office, and held it for four years. Since that time he has been engaged in farming. He owns 800 acres of valuable farming land, all of which he personally superintends. He resides in town, however, where he owns a fine property.
“He is a director and one of the stockholders in the Ray County Savings Bank. He and his wife are members of the Missionary Baptist Church. He was married in the fall of 1843, to Permelia A. Griffin, of Lexington. She is a native of Kentucky and the daughter of Berry G. Griffin, who was born in 1823, in Kentucky. He was murdered in Richmond in 1867, by the bandits, who, at the same time, robbed the bank at Richmond. Mr. Reyburn and wife have six children, four boys and two girl – Charles of Colorado, James a farmer, of Ray County; Amelia J., wife of John W. Francis, formerly sheriff of Ray County, but now of St. Louis; Lucy A., and George H. “
I think this tale of Sheriff Adam Reyburn’s family is a classic example of the “Wild West” days in our own little county. Who needs to  a watch an old Western when we have all this excitement in our own Ray County history books?

You can write Linda at rayc...@aol.com.

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